The glutes… No other muscle gets as much attention in the rehab world as the glutes. It isn’t without merit as they are an important player in our body, not only does this powerhouse link our upper and lower half but the glutes also help us with things like balance, pelvic stability and obviously strength & power.
We have found that sometimes (and we stress sometimes) ‘glute weakness’ can be a little over diagnosed being often labeled the culprits for back, hip, knee and ankle pain. Whilst this can definitely be the case or at least a contributing factor to pain and dysfunction – motor control, a mobility issue and activation could also be the underlying driver. As a result it’s best to get a proper assessment to see what’s really going before jumping into a glute strengthening program when this might not be addressing the problem.
With that being said, if strengthening is what you need, here are my go to glute exercises. These exercises come from personal experience, published articles but also from clinical experience in dealing with patients with a variety of injuries and/or inefficiencies. It’s by no means the recipe for everyone when it comes to training the glutes but just what I’ve found works well. It’s best to check with your local Physiotherapist if you have an injury or complaint that may require a strengthening or rehab program.
In no particular order…drum roll please…..
This is a common glute ‘activation’ exercise which is a good starting point if your injury stops you from weight bearing or if you are lacking a bit of control when you are in standing. Trust me, when done properly this exercise will get that glute med burning!
Position yourself lying on your side with your knees bent to roughly 90 degrees, feet and knees on top of one another. Lift your top knee away from the bottom knee, only go as far as you can without letting your hips fall backwards, pause before slowly lowering back to the start position. The slower you move the harder it will be and as you get better throw a resistance band over your knees to increase the difficulty.
Just as the name suggests this exercise will literally require you to get those hips thrusting! Lying on you back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push through your feet focusing on squeezing your butt to raise your hips off the ground, keeping your torso relatively stable. That’s the basic crux of it but check out this article by ‘The Glute Guy’ Bret Contreras to ensure you master the technique for this exercise. This can made harder by having a band around your knees trying to push your knees out or you can add weight using a plate or barbell over the level of the hips.
This exercise is a good progression from the ‘clam’ discussed above. We often use this as a warm up before we train legs as it’s a great activator for the glutes, more specifically the gluteus medius. Wrap a band around your legs just above the level of your knees. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and sit down into about a quarter squat. Take a small step laterally ensuring that you keep tension on the band as you sidestep about 20 steps in one direction. You should be feeling a real burn in those buns. Rest and perform 20 side steps in the opposite direction. If you need a visual check out this video we posted on instagram.
No glute exercise list would be complete without this huge functional movement. Squatting does a hell of a lot more than just train your glutes but they do play a key role when this movement is performed correctly. Technique, technique, technique. It’s absolutely essential to perfect your squat form before you even think about adding weight. If you aren’t sure ask someone who can help cue your technique. There are a heap of variations including adding a resistance band around the knees, adding weight and changing the speed or tempo of the movement. If you are a beginner you can start with a modified box squat to learn the correct squat mechanics. We won’t go into full technical details on how to nail this movement (it probably deserves a blog of its own) but here are a few helpful hints.
Kelly Starrett demonstrates a body weight squat
Establish a good squat stance. Feet should be at least shoulder width apart with toes pointing forward or subtly turned out.
Squeeze your butt and create torque by ‘screwing’ your feet into the ground.
Tilt your torso forward and drive your hamstrings back this ensures you are loading the right muscles as your squat.
Your knees should track on the same vertical path on the way up and down. Some coaches use the ‘drive your knees out’ cue which can encourage hip external rotation. This is subtle and just enough to combat the forces trying to pull your knees towards the midline.
Work in a range that you feel capable and comfortable.
So there you have it, four quick exercises that you can give a go if you think your glutes are getting a little lazy. All of these are great exercises to throw into a warm up to get those buns firing and ready for a heavy leg session at the gym, a run or whatever sport you’re into.